Prepare for booming ‘silver market,’ local property developers urged

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The Retirement and Healthcare Coalition (RHC) urged Philippine developers to start putting up full-fledged retirement villages rather than mere “sleeping quarters,” as other countries in the region have gone ahead with their own infrastructure buildup to get a bigger share in the “ballooning” silver market.

“The number of retirees looking for homes outside their own countries is increasing each year. The Philippines must be able to cater to their need for retirement communities that fit their lifestyle,” RHC executive director Marc Daubenbuechel said.

RHC is led by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

RHC executive director Marc Daubenbuechel said in a phone interview that retirement-age foreigners in the Philippines live in traditional communities or residential developments that were not fully integrated with senior-friendly leisure and medical facilities.

“There is no fully operational, integrated senior community with, say, restaurants, medical facilities, activities like yoga. The alternative for developers is to add health service projects and activities to existing developments,” he said.

Daubenbuechel said property developers seemed contented in offering mere “sleeping quarters.”

In the study “Establishment of a Retirement Village in the Philippines as a Response to Global Ageing,” Daubenbuechel said it was hard to estimate the number of retirement-age foreigners living in the Philippines since not all of them had retiree’s visa. In fact, many of them hold tourist visas.

He noted, though, that the increasing number of foreign patients receiving medical treatment in the Philippines indicated that it was a highly developed medical country. “As medical and healthcare treatments are becoming more important when growing old, this is an important finding,” he said.

The Philippines has been offering a Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) issued by the Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) since 1987 to encourage foreigners to spend their retirement and invest in the country. An investment of $10,000 to $50,000 needs to be deposited to a domestic bank, depending on the age of the resident. The amount can later be invested in real estate. A foreign citizen can apply for the SRRV once he reaches the age of 35 years.

Daubenbuechel’s study indicated that from 1987 to April 2009, 7,147 principals enrolled for the SRRV program, bringing 7,447 spouses/dependents with them. Most of the SRRV holders are from China (including Hong Kong), Korea, Japan, the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.

“Data on SRRV enrollees are not sufficient to be able to conclude how many participants are enrolled for the purpose of retiring in the Philippines. Since SRRV holders are allowed to start businesses in the Philippines, the number of Chinese, Japanese and Korean enrollees below 50 plus is expected to be quite high. The deposit necessary to enroll in the program may alienate retirees, who may instead stay on tourist visa,” he said.

Many retirees do not want to lose the benefits they enjoy from their countries of origin, a gray area exists and many will most likely opt not to become an official resident of the Philippines, he added.

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